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Deana Stokes Sullivan
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Council backs lobby for new west-end school

Parents in St. John's west end, who've been lobbying for more than a decade for a new high school, now have St. John's city council in their corner in their latest plea to the provincial government.

At a council meeting Monday, a motion by Coun. Tom Hann was passed authorizing the mayor to send a letter to the Eastern School District and the provincial government in support of the committee, which recently made a written submission to the province's budget consultations.

Sarah Colborne-Penney has accumulated piles of documents in her longtime lobby for a new high school for St. John's west end. - Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Parents in St. John's west end, who've been lobbying for more than a decade for a new high school, now have St. John's city council in their corner in their latest plea to the provincial government.

At a council meeting Monday, a motion by Coun. Tom Hann was passed authorizing the mayor to send a letter to the Eastern School District and the provincial government in support of the committee, which recently made a written submission to the province's budget consultations.

Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff says the city might even consider partnering with the province on such a project if the new school would facilitate both community and school activities.

Duff said some time ago, when a steering committee was working on a parks and recreation plan for the city, it looked at partnering with the Department of Education.

"This would be a prime example where, in the design of a new school, it could be designed in such a way that facilitates community activities as well as school activities," she said. "I think the faster this happens the better. I would think it would be an ideal site for a partnership of community and educational use."

Hann, who previously served on St. John's school councils, said the call for a new west-end high school dates back as far back as the early 1990s. But despite two aging centre-city schools, Bishops College and Booth Memorial, being deemed no longer suitable, Hann said more than 1,000 students from the city's west end are still being bused daily to them, with no movement on the concept of a new school to replace them.

Sarah Colborne-Penney, a spokeswoman for the West End High School Committee, said she did some research before presenting the group's latest submission to government and found old documents, including a Telegram editorial from December 1999, supporting the parents.

Colborne-Penney joined the lobby when her oldest child was in kindergarten. She's now 10 and has two siblings, eight and six years of age.

"I'm really hopeful that we will have a new school for my children," Colborne-Penney said Wednesday.

She said it's "very disheartening" to see what was meant to be a short-term measure, busing students from the west end to two aging centre-city schools, still going on 10 years later.

"Bishops and Booth simply no longer support the demands of 21st-century educational programming. They're over 50 years old," she said.

As well, she said, the students' quality of life is affected. Because busing adds to the length of their school day, Colborne-Penney said students are less likely to participate in extracurricular activities and the quality of the buildings raise concerns about health and safety issues.

She said the two schools have numerous building code and life safety violations and have suffered effects from a lack of maintenance.

"The west end is growing, the present schools are aging and we're busing them to substandard schools which is not acceptable," Colborne-Penney said.

Hann said a government-commissioned study in 2008 pointed out that both these schools are no longer suitable and can't support programming requirements.

Mary Tucker, communications manager with the Eastern School District confirmed that the enrolment at Bishops and Booth totals 1,013 students - 563 at Bishops and 450 at Booth, with most students being bused from the city's west end.

The school board formally passed a resolution in May 2008 to approve a multi-year plan that included plans to close Bishops and Booth and replace them with a new high school in the west end of the city, but "not earlier than June 2011." That is only 16 months away.

"The west-end high school is a board priority and a request has been made to government for funding. A decision has not yet been made by government," Tucker said.

Hann indicated the mayor has supported the parents in the past when he asked council to grant him the authority to write a letter to the province and school board in support of closing the two schools and moving forward with a new high school.

Mayor Dennis O'Keefe said he would be delighted to write another letter. Hann's motion was unanimously passed by council.

Coun. Bruce Tilley said he's also received a number of calls regarding this and believes it's an important issue.

"I hope we can help out in some way, even though it's not technically our responsibility," he said.

dss@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Department of Education, West End High School Committee

Geographic location: St. John's

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Recent comments

  • JohnL
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    City Council partnering with the building of an office complex on Water, with the building of a High School, repairsor replacing an old fishing stage in the Battery.
    How much were the taxpayers over assessed and over taxed in 2010. This council is acting as it has money to burn and are not ressponsible to the taxpayers of St.John's. This madness has got to stop.

  • San
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    The school situation in the West End is, for lack of a better word, stupid. There are 3 elementary schools in the same neighbourhood. 2 are across the street from each other!! So there are enough students to fill 3 of these schools, but no need for a high school. Does that make any since. The zoning is another issue. The area I live in requires my daughter to be bused to centre city to attend Jr High. I was lucky enough to get her into Beaconsfield Jr High (which is close enough that she has walked home) because of the primary school she started off school. Now, next year she will be bused to the centre of town, while Mount Pearl schools are closer. Now, I realize Mount Pearl is a different city, but come on, I graduated High School 25 yrs ago, and my High School was Beaconsfield. And the school was full, and there was no Cowan Hights then, or at least a quarter of the size it is now. So the population of the West End went up, and the High School went away. Sorry, that that is just stupid. The Schools you are asking to send our kids in were around in my fathers day. So how old would that make them? Are they safe for that many students? I know that a High School in the West End if it happens won't benefit me, or my daughter, but I believe it is indeed needed.

  • Taxpayer
    July 02, 2010 - 13:29

    Don't tell me St. John's is going to start financing the building of schools now. I guess since they are all retired all they have to do is sit around in the bunker and think up new ways to waste our money.

  • MZM
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    Thank you Sarah and others for sticking with what has been a long, uphill battle to convince the province that it is not acceptable for our children, and the employees who are so important in their development, to go to school daily in buildings that are unsafe (real fire and building hazards that have well-documented) and ill-equipped for their needs. With respect to comments from Mary Conception, I remind her that there is a new high school in Torbay and that Gonzaga does not have the same issues. It would be nice if all kids could attend schools that are close to their home. But this is not just about a desire for a school in our neighbourhood. As a parent of a child who attends one of these two centre-city high schools, it is astounding to see the no-doubt well-spent but millions of tax dollars that have been spent to the beautify the regional dump and the outside of the building where our tax returns are processed on Empire Avenue while parents and school representatives have to fight tooth and nail for buildings that are safe and designed to give our kids the best chance possible for a successful future. The need for a new high school for children who live in the west end of St. John's has been on the forefront for over 10 years while, in the meantime, thousands of children have passed through the doors of these two unsafe and inadequate schools. It is about time and in everyone's interest to get moving on this. Go Sarah!

  • Todd
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    Mary, I don't know why you would call this group self-centered, they are looking out for their own area/neighbourhood, what's wrong with that? If people in the North East Metro want a new school then they should form a group and rally for one as well. Putting down the hard work of one group by calling them self-centered doesn't accomplish anything.

  • I. P. Freely
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    How much is this going to cost us?

  • Joanie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    I too have a daughter who is affected by the west end high school debate,and another one to follow in a few years. I support Sarah Colborne-Penney on all her efforts to accomplish her goal... Keep up the good work and rally for the kids who will benefit from this....there is always someone who finds fault in a right, if you are doing right then ignore those idiots like MARY....and carry on like the normal people would do...

  • T
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    Beaconsfield was the only high school in the west end. That's been closed, and ever since there's been talk of how the west end is in desparate need of a high school. I agree, it's needed. I'd very much like to know who made the decision to close beaconsfield in the first place, and based on what? I hope the school board will think about this situation the next time they start closing schools. Some common sense would come in handy.

  • kaycee
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    If you feel there should be a school in the northeast metro, then lobby for one, like these people are doing.
    I say it's about time. There was NO GOOD REASON why Beaconsfield High School closed. Bishops and Booth are falling down. Why are we sending so many children to these schools? To keep them open?
    I hope this committee gets their wish.

  • Justin
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    Nothing, IP Freely (did a 7 year-old give you that name or was Taxpayer II getting too onerous?), these schools will grow out of the ground. At first, they start as pre-schools and after many years they grow up into universities!

    Education costs money, just like roads, sewage, hospitals, the justice system, the fire department etc, etc. And yes, it's paid for through taxes. It's what's called living in a civil society... Didn't anyone tell you that?

  • Mary Conception
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    This group is so narrow minded, self-centred. There is a high school in Torbay and the next one is Gonzaga. The area of the North East Metro is in dire need of a high school. It is beyond me why this area is not looking for one as strident as this self-centred group.

  • James
    July 02, 2010 - 13:08

    So, this group is narrow-minded and self-centred because they are trying to get a school built? If groups in those areas that also need schools were to lobby too, would they also be 'narrow-minded and self- centred?' Are you suggesting that these other areas need narrow-minded self-centred people to advocate for new schools? Im missing your logic here, Mary.

    On another note, Shannie Duff is quite correct in pointing out that schools should be built with the community in mind. It's a waste that these resources should close their doors at 4:30.

  • JohnL
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    City Council partnering with the building of an office complex on Water, with the building of a High School, repairsor replacing an old fishing stage in the Battery.
    How much were the taxpayers over assessed and over taxed in 2010. This council is acting as it has money to burn and are not ressponsible to the taxpayers of St.John's. This madness has got to stop.

  • San
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    The school situation in the West End is, for lack of a better word, stupid. There are 3 elementary schools in the same neighbourhood. 2 are across the street from each other!! So there are enough students to fill 3 of these schools, but no need for a high school. Does that make any since. The zoning is another issue. The area I live in requires my daughter to be bused to centre city to attend Jr High. I was lucky enough to get her into Beaconsfield Jr High (which is close enough that she has walked home) because of the primary school she started off school. Now, next year she will be bused to the centre of town, while Mount Pearl schools are closer. Now, I realize Mount Pearl is a different city, but come on, I graduated High School 25 yrs ago, and my High School was Beaconsfield. And the school was full, and there was no Cowan Hights then, or at least a quarter of the size it is now. So the population of the West End went up, and the High School went away. Sorry, that that is just stupid. The Schools you are asking to send our kids in were around in my fathers day. So how old would that make them? Are they safe for that many students? I know that a High School in the West End if it happens won't benefit me, or my daughter, but I believe it is indeed needed.

  • Taxpayer
    July 01, 2010 - 20:17

    Don't tell me St. John's is going to start financing the building of schools now. I guess since they are all retired all they have to do is sit around in the bunker and think up new ways to waste our money.

  • MZM
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    Thank you Sarah and others for sticking with what has been a long, uphill battle to convince the province that it is not acceptable for our children, and the employees who are so important in their development, to go to school daily in buildings that are unsafe (real fire and building hazards that have well-documented) and ill-equipped for their needs. With respect to comments from Mary Conception, I remind her that there is a new high school in Torbay and that Gonzaga does not have the same issues. It would be nice if all kids could attend schools that are close to their home. But this is not just about a desire for a school in our neighbourhood. As a parent of a child who attends one of these two centre-city high schools, it is astounding to see the no-doubt well-spent but millions of tax dollars that have been spent to the beautify the regional dump and the outside of the building where our tax returns are processed on Empire Avenue while parents and school representatives have to fight tooth and nail for buildings that are safe and designed to give our kids the best chance possible for a successful future. The need for a new high school for children who live in the west end of St. John's has been on the forefront for over 10 years while, in the meantime, thousands of children have passed through the doors of these two unsafe and inadequate schools. It is about time and in everyone's interest to get moving on this. Go Sarah!

  • Todd
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    Mary, I don't know why you would call this group self-centered, they are looking out for their own area/neighbourhood, what's wrong with that? If people in the North East Metro want a new school then they should form a group and rally for one as well. Putting down the hard work of one group by calling them self-centered doesn't accomplish anything.

  • I. P. Freely
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    How much is this going to cost us?

  • Joanie
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    I too have a daughter who is affected by the west end high school debate,and another one to follow in a few years. I support Sarah Colborne-Penney on all her efforts to accomplish her goal... Keep up the good work and rally for the kids who will benefit from this....there is always someone who finds fault in a right, if you are doing right then ignore those idiots like MARY....and carry on like the normal people would do...

  • T
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    Beaconsfield was the only high school in the west end. That's been closed, and ever since there's been talk of how the west end is in desparate need of a high school. I agree, it's needed. I'd very much like to know who made the decision to close beaconsfield in the first place, and based on what? I hope the school board will think about this situation the next time they start closing schools. Some common sense would come in handy.

  • kaycee
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    If you feel there should be a school in the northeast metro, then lobby for one, like these people are doing.
    I say it's about time. There was NO GOOD REASON why Beaconsfield High School closed. Bishops and Booth are falling down. Why are we sending so many children to these schools? To keep them open?
    I hope this committee gets their wish.

  • Justin
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    Nothing, IP Freely (did a 7 year-old give you that name or was Taxpayer II getting too onerous?), these schools will grow out of the ground. At first, they start as pre-schools and after many years they grow up into universities!

    Education costs money, just like roads, sewage, hospitals, the justice system, the fire department etc, etc. And yes, it's paid for through taxes. It's what's called living in a civil society... Didn't anyone tell you that?

  • Mary Conception
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    This group is so narrow minded, self-centred. There is a high school in Torbay and the next one is Gonzaga. The area of the North East Metro is in dire need of a high school. It is beyond me why this area is not looking for one as strident as this self-centred group.

  • James
    July 01, 2010 - 19:43

    So, this group is narrow-minded and self-centred because they are trying to get a school built? If groups in those areas that also need schools were to lobby too, would they also be 'narrow-minded and self- centred?' Are you suggesting that these other areas need narrow-minded self-centred people to advocate for new schools? Im missing your logic here, Mary.

    On another note, Shannie Duff is quite correct in pointing out that schools should be built with the community in mind. It's a waste that these resources should close their doors at 4:30.